Mountain helix – Tony’s

Tony’s been in touch with his mountain helix layout:

“Hi Al,

The track used is standard curves from setrack, Peco OO/HO.

The design is a offset helex, with 4 levels, starting with appox 1m30 in diam.

The grade is 2 to2.5 so you get about 10 cm between each level, just enough.

I first put the track together on the bench just laying each layer on top of the last, i used some small pices of strait track to get the offset working up and back towards the corner in the room, so that appox half of each layer is not laying on top of the one befor,i hope that makes sense.

Then you get exposed track so you can see the trains going round about half of each round.

Then i made templates from paper. Now i know how much space i need. I made a frame with 2×4 fixed to the wall with one leg, just a frame no top,you need to come inside the mountain for all sorts of things. I used a thin glassfibre sheet to round of the corner on the wall

I transfered the templates to hardboard and started to build up the helex using 1×1 for support.

At this point you can fix the track,i used foam under the track. Fix the wiring and your ready to test.

One thing i will say i don’t think you can use this mountain helix for long trains and,now you have got your trains up you have to get them down.

At 2 to 2.5 that takes appox 12 meters with track.

I am going to go approx 4 meters long the wall 3 meters end wall 4 meters opposite wall around in a half ring and back again to the you have 2 different heights all the way round.

The mountain yas biult up with cardboard stips and plastercloth.

I hope you get some ideas from this i really enjoyed doing it .


mountain helix

mountain helix

mountain helix

“Hello Al,

How are you? Thank You as always for all the effort you put into this site.

It is just amazing, all the people who come on and show there beautiful work.

You have posted pic’s of my layout before, and it is still a work in progress.

I think I can upload some new pic’s to show some progress. But the real reason for my email is….

I live in S. Cal and take our local Metrolink Trains and come in to DT LA Union Station. And low and behold and OLD STEAM

Santa Fe 3751 built in 1921 was at the Station. So bloody cool to see and hear this steam locomotive, and soon to be at the Fullerton Station at the end of this month.

Here are a couple of ok pictures that you can upload and share if you like?

I am going to do my best to be their at the end of this month, and hope to post better pic’s or even a video for all the people on this wonderful site.

Thank you so much


steam engine

steam engine

steam engine

steam engine

And I got this in from Jane:

“Hi Alastair,

I hope you are well and I hope you don’t mind me getting in touch again. The train interior project had been put on hold for a while but we are re-visiting it now.

Would you be able to recommend some places or sites for train salvage items like luggage rack, enamel signs and lights etc? I have attached a drawing showing the latest space.

Our client pointed us to your direction for advice, and we really appreciate your help and advice.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Kind regards,


train carriage interior offie

A big thanks to Steve and to Tony for sharing his mountain helix – and if anyone cane help Jane, please post below!

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

model train answers

18 Responses to Mountain helix – Tony’s

  1. Bob Gevert says:

    Hi Al,
    This is for Jane .I go to alot of antique shops and shows in NYC and you’d be surprised at what can be found!! I would try those as well as old salvage and wrecking yards.Happy hunting!!

  2. Bill Crumrine says:

    Is this a Mikado or a Berkshire? I didn’t think that the Berkshire came out until 1925, so I’ll stand corrected. Either way this is a beautiful steam locomotive. I just wish to God, the railroads could bring back the old steam locomotives, if for no other reason, than nostalgia – not all but just enough to maybe perk railroad interest again.

  3. Jim S says:

    Love the mountain helix idea. Do you have pictures of the basic construction before the landscape?

  4. Johnny says:

    I remember them laying the Track for the 3751 when I was very young, in 1957 if memory is correct, in the park next to the AT&SF Shops. My Godfather was the B&B foreman at the time. I was working at the Shop as a Journeyman Machinist when they removed it to be restored. I even got to get up on it and sit in the Engineers seat after it was open in 1960.

  5. Dr Bob says:

    Tony, love the helix set up you have chosen for your layout. I remember as a child back when store front windows had train displays during Christmas time when helix displays were very common among train enthusiast. My brothers and I would stand there for what seemed like ‘moments’ (probably much longer to the parents) before Mom and Dad were whisking us away to do shopping. Great memories!

    Beautiful steam engine Atkinson, Topeka and Sante Fe 4-8-4 Baldwin! From what I have read, this one has quite a history; including being the fastest steam engine at 103 mph in 1941, appear at the grand opening of the LA terminal in 1939, and AT&SF first steam 4-8-4 steam engine. Very nice!

  6. Larry Kuenning says:


    Can you provide a picture showing what the access to the inside of the mountain looks like? I can’t quite envision it from the text and the pictures of the front. I keep imagining you standing on a chair to reach in over the top, or crawling underneath to come up in a cramped space in back.

    Larry in Maine

  7. Jim says:

    I was thinking of buying a helix, to build a mountain. But I decided to try an build one. So I really like your article. I could use more information on to build the helix.
    Thanks again for the article !

  8. Emerson Thomas says:

    is this steam engine running or just parked for looks?

  9. Pete in KC says:

    As for “train salvage items” I’ve seen a lot of excellent items on good ol’ eBay. I’d usually focused on items from Chicago’s Rapid Transit system, but over the years I’ve seen signs from different railroads and RR stations, things from waiting rooms, steam and air gauges, tools, luggage racks, lamps and lights, even dish ware. On a couple occasions I’d see a locomotive bell or steam whistle offered, but the final bid prices were almost outrageous!

    Whether you are looking for U.S. or British items, I’m sure you’ll find a lot of stuff on the appropriate eBay site – just be patient and check what’s being offered every week or so. Good hunting!

  10. Wow! One hell of a helix is right. My question is one which a cat might have, upon reaching the top of a tall tree – – – “Now, how the hell do I get back down?” Is there another one at the other end of the layout or does the crew have to back down (or continue with their nose bleed?
    Kidding aside, that is an amazing rendition of a helix that puts some real life into the layout. Great stuff.

  11. Tony, If you are ever in BC go see the Kicking Horse Pass, a real live helix. You can often see the end of the train at the same time higher up the headers,

  12. Mario says:

    The illustration of the sleeping car, could you please explaine it’s purpose? Please.

  13. Hello Al
    What an awesome helix…The scenery just makes the scene spectacular. Keep the pics and updates with progress being made. I look forward to them.

  14. Bill Allen says:

    Tony…Beautiful work! I have a question regarding access. Should there be a problem, a derailment or whatever near the back corner, how do you access that area? I am working on just a 24″ shelf layout, with tunnels at each end, and I am puzzled as to how I am going to access that area in the event of a problem. By the way, I love the way you made the front portions of the Helix visible. It make the whole project more entertaining.

  15. Will in NM says:

    Tony, Thanks for sharing your helix mountain photos and commentary. I really like the exposed stair-step design of the front of the helix. It reminds me of a photo I ran across the other day of John Allen’s famous Gorre and Daphetid layout with multiple levels of exposed curves winding up from near the floor to almost the ceiling of his basement. If I ever get around to building my dream layout in my shop building, I would want to use a stair-stepped helix like yours to raise the track from the lower to the upper level of the layout.

  16. Erick says:

    look great but would like see more

  17. Wayne Mabie says:

    This Quick note is for Jane.
    Hi here in “Northern CA” there is what appears as a breaker/storage sidings on the UP tracks to the west of Watsonville, CA. I will see if I can find a phone or mailing address for you. Mr. Wayne

  18. John Peddy says:

    Agree with another poster, I really like the mountain offset helix to watch the trains go round and round. Really would like to see how the infrastructure was built before the plaster cloth was added. Is there another link of pictures as to how it was constructed?

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